MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — You guys have had a lot of questions about word origins this week.

Jennifer Meister from Plymouth asked: What causes Charley horses? How did they get their name?

There are two theories on the origin. First, the Chicago White Sox kept an old, lame horse in their ballpark around 1900 named Charlie. Lame horse…lame muscle in your leg.

Or the phrase could have come from an old pitcher named after Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourne.

He had a problem with persistent cramps. Charlie Hoss…Charlie Horse.

Jackie from Delano wondered: How did banks become piggy banks?

During the middle ages, metal was expensive. Families used clay to make pots and jars. Usually the type of clay they used was called pygg.

It’s orange and cheap, and so families would make a pygg Jar or pygg Bank. In the 1700’s, potters were asked to make pygg banks. But misunderstanding pygg for pig, potters made banks shaped like the animal.

Rachel from Minneapolis knows when you need good luck, you knock on wood. But where did the phrase knock on wood come from?

The Brits used the phrase: touch wood. The phrase seems to come from that. But why?

Lots of theories for this one. Some think it relates to the Cross of Christ’s crucifixion. Other etymologists say it goes to ancient times when people living in England thought spirits lived in trees. If there’s danger? Knock on the wood to summon the spirit.

Historians found the phrase in The Syracuse Herald in 1905, so it’s been around for more than 100 years.


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